SAVED BY THE BELL! Get your kids ready for a great school year
Research shows that a steady routine, restful sleep and a healthy diet contribute to children’s health, well-being and school success. Camping, festivals, fireworks and travel are great summer fun, but they also disrupt normal sleep and meal schedules.
Parents should re-introduce a learning-friendly sleep schedule at least a few weeks before school begins in the fall. Experts recommend that children ages 3-6 get 10-12 hours of sleep per day; ages 7-12, 10-11 hours; and ages 12-18, 8-9 hours.
Children also need a regular and healthy diet with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid sugary snacks and sodas which provide a short-term rush and can contribute to lack of concentration.
A hearty, balanced breakfast ensures your child is fueled up and ready to learn all day long. Quality sleep and a healthy diet are further strengthened by a daily exercise routine. Regular exercise will help your child develop lifelong healthy habits for improved mood, cognitive function and physical fitness. The Let’s Move website offers great nutritional and exercise advice.
Be sure your child’s immunizations are current. Up-to-date immunizations are required for enrollment; the school nurse can answer any related questions.
Contact your health care provider or local military treatment facility for immunization needs. The summer is the ideal time to arrange for a sports physical, which is required before students can begin practicing athletics.
For nutrition and exercise tips, visit: www.letsmove.gov
This school year, raise grades with online learning tools
Unfortunately, the pace of classroom learning can’t be tailored to every student’s individual needs – particularly these days, as class sizes are growing and funding for special enrichment programs becomes limited. In fact, at least 35 states provided less funding per student for the 2013-14 school year than they did before the recession.
Many children will need to spend some time outside the classroom going beyond their regular homework to keep up or get ahead in school. No matter what your child’s education goals are, there are great ways you can help make this school year the best one yet:
Math practice: Square roots, polynomials, quadrilaterals. Learning these terms and concepts can get dicey quickly. Keeping up at home is important, and sometimes requires more than just doing the day’s take-home assignment.
Consider supplementing homework with online tools. For example, Shmoop, an online learning and test prep provider, provides free study guides for review and courses for remedial work in many academic topics, including social science, arts and music, science and English. Their math tutorials cover everything from Pre-Algebra to Calculus and the step by-step explanations that the program offers can be helpful to any student looking for an extra edge.
Read the classics: Kids who read for pleasure can improve their grades. Not only will the exposure to literary giants like John Steinbeck, Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe build vocabulary and improve reading comprehension, there is much to be learned about history and culture from picking up a great book, such as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
Be sure to use tools that can help clarify some of the denser material. Online learning guides can be a great place to get synopses and analysis.
Use flashcards: It may sound quaint, but there is really no substitute for quizzing yourself with a flash card. Even the act of creating the flashcard can help reinforce concepts and facts.
Extra Help: A little extra academic help after school can sometimes mean the difference between struggle and success. But between school and soccer practice, ballet lessons and getting dinner on the table, adding a tutor or after school class to the list might be a logistical impossibility.
Consider online courses that can be completed from the comfort of home and are common core aligned. For example, Shmoop’s offerings are diverse, ranging from 7th grade math to second semester 12th grade British Literature. For those students taking Advanced Placement courses this fall, check out their AP test prep courses. These courses help students nail the important, for-credit, year-end exam. More information can be found at www.Shmoop.com.
With a bit of extra effort and the use of savvy learning tools, kids can gain a competitive edge this school year.
Healthy fuel for back to school: tasty, tote-able snack ideas
During back-to-school season, many families will find time is at a premium. With routines changing from summer’s slower pace to tighter schedules jam-packed with work, school and extracurricular commitments, it can be hard to keep kids fueled for the day and eating healthfully.
With limited time to eat between the dismissal bell and soccer games, art class and homework, speed sometimes supersedes nutrition. Fortunately you don’t have to make that kind of compromise. There are plenty of quick, convenient and healthy foods to keep everyone on schedule and your kids properly fed.
Make a mini-wich
Sandwiches are a classic, portable meal, but when your kids just need a snack, try a “mini-wich.”
Making one is as simple as quartering a PB&J or grilled cheese sandwich into a bite-sized, pop-able snack. Add in a few baby carrots or a handful of raisins on the side and you’re all set.
It’s a tiny, attractive combo that will come in very handy when your son or daughter needs an extra boost after getting off the bus or energy for an early start on homework.
There are lots of options for healthy snacks on-the-go – from all-in-one bars, to trail mix, to fruit squeezers. Sometimes, all it takes is a squeeze and a slurp to enjoy a snack that’s nutritious and delicious.
For a no-spoon, no-mess solution, give GoGo squeeZ squeezable fruit pouches a try. They are 100 percent natural and come in a variety of flavors, including apple cinnamon, apple strawberry and apple peach. These convenient, tasty pouches are even great for families with dietary restrictions, since they are gluten-free, Kosher certified, GMO-free and made without high fructose corn syrup.
These squeezable snacks are perfect for when life is moving fast, and they’re shelf-stable so you can keep a few in the car to have on hand even if you forgot to plan ahead. At only 60 calories, it’s a snack you can feel good about sharing with kids, who find fun pouches irresistible. You can find more information at www.gogosqueez.com.
One man’s dinner is some kid’s snack. While that’s not exactly how the saying goes, “waste not, want not” should ring a bell...
Try dicing up last night’s chicken and broccoli and mixing them in a small Tupperware container. Throw in a side of ranch dressing and a colorful safety fork and voila: your kids have an instant, bite-sized snack ready for spearing.
When school starts back up, it’s hard to carve out time for healthy food preparation, but when the going gets hectic, imaginative parent can fall back on these snacks.
Whether it’s grabbing a pouch of GoGo squeeZ or cutting a quick, delicious mini-wich, your kids will thank you for something small, tasty and playful –and you’ll gain confidence that a more hurried time doesn’t mean a less healthy time.
Fun DIY projects for back to school
Back to school shopping can seem tedious and boring for some students. But you can help your young ones get motivated for a new school year by getting them more involved in the experience.
After an extended vacation, going back to school and getting back into the daily grind can seem stifling, but personalizing and accessorizing school supplies, lockers and work spaces can be a simple antidote.
With that in mind, here are a few tips and DIY ideas to get kids pumped about the new school year:
Why settle for the same plain notebooks everyone else has? Liven up math, history and English by decorating a notebook for each subject with its own unique design and color concept. Doing so isn’t just fun, it can help students find their stuff quickly during the rush between classes.
One easy way to decorate notebooks and reinforce them at the same time against wear and tear is with duct tape. Lay down a solid color duct tape along the cover of your notebook in rows, then use a crafting knife to cut along the sides, making the edges sharp and clean. After that, lay a few horizontal, diagonal or vertical stripes of patterned duct tape down over the base in fun patterns to make it your own.
Don’t forget to label each notebook with your name and subject!
A student’s work space should be a place that inspires him or her to do great work and be creative. But that can seem impossible when the space is colorless and uninspiring. To get your kids excited about homework, let them play a role in choosing where they do it and then allow them to decorate that area.
A place for friendly reminders and to-do lists above the desk can be a helpful study aid that keeps kids on task. However, rather than hanging a conventional chalkboard, create a portable version with 3M’s new Scotch Chalkboard Tape or Dry Erase Tape, which acts just like a regular chalkboard or dry erase surface, but is applied like tape and removes cleanly and easily from surfaces.
You provide the binders, notebooks, pencils and the crafting supplies and let kids provide the imagination. And now, kids can share their crafting talent not just with their classmates, but also with the world by entering 3M’s “Tape On” contest where they can submit their own back to school creations using duct tape for an opportunity to win prizes.
Feeling inspired? Channel that creativity this summer by submitting your own back to school project. Visit go.3M.com/tapeoncontest for more information on how to enter and to see the official contest rules.
Don’t let back to school shopping be a chore. This year, get the kids off to a great start by making school – and all the supplies that come with it – personal, stylish and fun.
Tips to make math your kids’ favorite subject
Math may not sound like fun to everyone, but there is fun to be had when learning mathematics. If you can convince kids of that basic principle, getting them to focus in school and do well on their tests will be the easy part. After all some of today’s most downloaded apps involve math -- maybe you’ve heard of the popular app, 2048.
Nearly three-fifths of U.S middle school students believe that math will be important to their future, according to a recent survey conducted by the Raytheon Group, However, the same study found that physical education was the overwhelming choice for children’s favorite subject.
With that in mind, here are several ways to jazz up math for your children so they develop an affinity for the subject from an early age:
Math touches everything that we do in life, which makes it all the more important to master. Luckily, it also makes it easy to tailor a lesson plan to suit a child’s interests.
You can make math problems less of a problem by substituting the names, places and activities referenced in their homework with things your child cares about.
Is your child on a sports team? Teach him or her how to analyze the statistics that came out of the latest game. Does your child love movies? Make up math problems about the latest box office numbers. The possibilities are endless.
Students want to have the freedom to embrace their own sense of personal style. Fortunately, opportunities for self-expression can even be found in math class.
Most portable electronics today come in a variety of colors, so why not calculators too? Take school supplies to the next level with tools like Casio’s new line of scientific and graphing calculators, which come in pink, black, blue, gray and white. Their easy to use, durable calculators offer high-resolution screens, enhanced technological features and icon based menus. More information can be found at www.CasioEducation.com.
Make sure your kids know just how important their success in math class is, by rewarding their good grades and extra time spent learning. Some might call it bribery, but you can think of it as positive reinforcement. And remember, extra time spent with math doesn’t have to be boring. To get kids motivated, look for fun supplemental lessons on the Internet as well as computer games that employ math skills.
Some school subjects, for some children, will need a bit of creative packaging to motivate them. Whether your kids struggle with math or are natural whizzes, take steps to make the subject more personal and more fun.
Regular exercise can help kids do better in school
Physical activity may not be the first thing parents or teachers think about when they want to boost a child’s academic performance, but evidence supports the notion that a bit of exercise for the body is beneficial to the brain as well.
In fact, kindergarteners who participated in Build Our Kids’ Success (BOKS), a free before-school program involving physical activity and nutrition education, had significantly improved memory skills as rated by teachers, compared to their peers who did not participate. A study of the children’s performance also concluded that those who participated in the program exhibited good behavior in the classroom.
“A sedentary life and poor eating habits can lower kids’ performance in the classroom and start a cycle of health problems later in life,” says Kathleen Tullie, Founder and Executive Director of BOKS and the Director of Social Responsibility for Reebok. “Simply stated, a healthy body and a healthy brain go hand in hand.”
So how can you incorporate more healthy habits into your family’s routine?
- Active weekends: Instead of a lazy Saturday or Sunday, get outside and get moving. Take a soccer ball to the park for a pick-up game or hike a local trail. Make exercise on the weekends a regular habit for your family, and those habits will extend to the rest of the week as well.
- Fuel throughout the day: A hearty breakfast sets kids up for a great day. Follow that up with a healthful, satisfying lunch and snacks such as nuts and fruit, to help kids avoid the pitfalls of the junk food machines.
- Cook together: Take-out is great when you’re crunched for time, but be sure to cook at home at least a few times a week. Not only are homemade meals one of the only ways you can be exactly sure of what you’re feeding your family, but the act of cooking together is a great opportunity to impart some lessons about nutrition and eating right.
- Bed time: Adequate sleep is crucial for a healthy, functional mind and body. Setting a regular bedtime and sticking to it is best to ensure kids get a full night’s rest.
- Volunteer to get your school involved: Children should have one hour or more of physical activity daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, physical education class may not be sufficient. Investigate what other opportunities your child’s school has for physical activity, such as before school programs like BOKS or after school sports. If your school doesn’t have such a program in place, look into starting BOKS at your school.
BOKS, for example, can be run by anyone – parents, teachers, the school nurse or a community activist. To learn more, visit www.BOKSKids.org.
Healthy habits will not only reduce your child’s risk for such problems as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, they can help prime children for more success inside the classroom and beyond. So give your children a leg up and encourage them to get moving.
Ensure your student athletes are ready for the season
For many kids, playing sports is an important part of growing up, and that’s a good thing. Sports are a great way for children and adolescents to develop lifelong exercise habits, build relationships, and learn teamwork.
“Parents can play a vital role in ensuring young athletes train and condition properly,” says Dr. James M. Perrin, 2014 president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “From staying hydrated to wearing safety gear, kids may need periodic reminders.”
Here are ways to help your child avoid common sports hazards:
Athletes will reduce their risk of injury by strengthening muscles to protect vulnerable ligaments. This is especially important in certain sports -- including soccer, football, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and lacrosse – in which athletes are prone to injuring their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which provides stability to the knee.
Girls need to be especially careful, according to statistics. Adolescent girls are four to eight times more likely to suffer ACL injuries than boys, according to the AAP.
Neuromuscular training programs that strengthen hips, the core muscles and hamstrings can significantly reduce one’s risk for injury. This training will help athletes improve their form and have a greater awareness of how to safely pivot, jump and land.
Water is the best way for kids to stay hydrated while playing or exercising. Sports and energy drinks are heavily marketed to children and adolescents, but in most cases kids don’t need them – and some of these products contain ingredients that could be harmful to children.
Sports drinks which contain carbohydrates and electrolytes, can be helpful for young athletes engaged in prolonged, vigorous exercise, but in most cases they’re unnecessary. Plain water is usually best, as sports drinks contain extra calories and sugar. Energy drinks, which contain stimulants like caffeine, are not healthy for children or teens, according to the AAP.
Read the label to know exactly what you’re giving your child. When in doubt, stick to water.
Because young athletes’ brains are still developing, it’s important to take head injuries seriously. Adolescent concussions can cause long-term brain injury. If your young athlete sustains a concussion, he or she should be evaluated by a physician and receive medical clearance before returning to play. While concussion symptoms usually resolve in seven to 10 days, so me athletes may take weeks or months to recover, and some students may need accommodations at school during this recovery.
Don’t overdo it
The most common type of sports injury is from overuse. Ignoring pain can worsen the injury and cause long-term damage.
“The best way for parents to prevent overuse injuries is to pay attention to their child’s training schedule,” Perrin says.
Limit your child to a single sport or team per season, and the training schedule to no more than five days per week. Alternating sports can help avoid burnout.
More sports safety tips can be found at www.HealthyChildren.org.
While sports are an important part of childhood with critical health benefits, parents, coaches and athletes should work together to make sure children participate safely.